A Sullivan County Store Decks the Halls, Year-Round

Canal Towne Emporium is a general store that goes all-out for the holidays.


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Photos by jane Anderson

Tucked away in the sleepy village of Wurtsboro lies the Canal Towne Emporium. The brick-and-clapboard structure is a throwback to the 1839 days of the D&H Canal, when it was owned by Joseph Holmes and served as a general store for “canawlers.” Today current owners Gary and Lyman Holmes, Joseph’s great-grandsons, have preserved that old-time feeling, while providing shoppers with a much greater variety of goods.

The store was run by the Holmes family until it closed its doors in 1958. In 1976 Gary and Lyman — at the urging of their mother, Doris — reopened it, preserving as much as they could.

Lift the vintage latch on the front door, and an authentic general store greets you with the original mahogany counter and iron cash register, where the Holmeses ring up purchases. The circa-1800s floorboards creak underfoot. Merchandise includes kitchenware, old-fashioned candy, toys, bath items, scarves, sweaters, handpainted furniture (which Lyman drives to Vermont to personally fetch), and much more. Upstairs is more furniture, and a room (for the eyes only) with the original rolltop desk and the rocking horse that Gary and Lyman’s grandfather (and they) rode as a child. “It’s a true emporium,” says Gary. “You name it, we have it.”

Especially holiday items. Canal Towne Emporium honors the season year-round in its holiday shop (formerly the town clerk and supervisor’s office), where you’ll find ornaments, fully bedecked trees, Byers’ Choice carolers, genuine German nutcrackers, and a miniature train chugging through several Dept. 56 village layouts. Starting in November, a decorated tree soars 14 feet high in a cathedral-ceilinged room, menorahs and Hanukkah textiles are on display, and the holiday shop spills out to every corner of the store.

The brothers get decorating help from Gary Eckhardt, Gary Holmes’ former art teacher at Liberty High School, who designed the layout when Gary and Lyman reopened the store and has helped ever since.

“We offer good merchandise at a good price,” says Lyman, a practice Doris called “the golden rule.” 

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